Silicon Labs customers are as varied and fascinating as they are innovative. One such customer is Mobilogix, a Machine-to-Machine (M2M) systems integrator that improves and simplifies communications in the daily lives of people and companies globally. The company’s focus is on creating intelligent solutions that connect people to machines through core telemetry, web, and mobile platforms.
Recently, we had a chance to speak with Mobilogix CEO, James Jeffries, about how he got his start, Mobilogix’s innovative approach, and the impact a more connected world has on the way we work and live.
Tell me how you got started working with wireless technology.
I've been in the wireless space, since 1991. I started out, believe it or not, in one-way paging. I worked for my dad’s industrial water treatment company and I carried a pager as I ran around to all the different refineries in Texas to test and treat their water cooling systems.
I started thinking, what else could I do with this pager? An engineering buddy of mine and I started playing with it. We hooked it up to a relay and connected that to a lamp. When we paged it, we could turn the lamp on and off. Soon we put multiple input/outputs on a breadboard and stuck it in a car. We were locking, unlocking doors, flashing lights, sounding the horn – and even actually killing the engine, which as you might imagine wasn't very safe!
At that time, I was 29 years old. I quit my job and started a little company, Satronics. I had a lot of ideas, but the technology wasn’t quite ready yet. A cellular modem back in 2003 was $75. A GPS engine board was $50.
How did Mobilogix come about?
In 2005, I decided to take few years off, but I couldn’t stay away from the industry. A few years later I got back into the wireless space again. It was a revelation – everything I wanted to do before, I could now do. Modems were smaller, more power efficient, and lower cost. So you could put together a business solution with the ROI that would enable that solution to become successful. That's what started Mobilogix.
What is the most unique thing about Mobilogix?
When I was talking to carriers and other companies, their biggest struggle was to develop a connected solution. They had to work with three or four different companies. In the Internet of Things (IoT), the ecosystem is usually hardware, firmware, middleware, and wireless connectivity or data.
At Mobilogix, the strategy was to be a true end-to-end IoT systems integrator. I tried to bring it all in under one roof and that definitely streamlines communication. All the pieces are here and we are focused on one thing: to get our customers or our partners a solution in-hand and, in the process of doing that, we're reducing costs and speeding time to market.
I keep our development costs as low as possible because I want to eliminate the barriers to entry. And one of the biggest barriers of entry is cost. Development cost. So by doing this and streamlining those processes, or components of the overall solution, we are improving our chance of success.
Silicon Labs was founded in 1996, so this year we’re celebrating our 20th anniversary. Technology changed dramatically since then. What are your thoughts on that change and where it is going in the future with the IoT?
I grew up in NASA Bay right across from Johnson Space Center, so I grew up really interested in the space program. A lot of my friends’ dads were astronauts or engineers at NASA. It’s hard to comprehend, but one of the old flip phones in the mid-nineties – not one of today’s smartphones – had more computing power in it than the first lunar lander did.
It’s incredible. In the early 90s I had a buddy who was a pilot. He flew checks – paper checks – from bank to bank. That's all he did. He’d pick up a bunch of checks in Houston, and fly them up to Dallas. Take Dallas checks and fly them to New Orleans. That's how they cleared checks in the 90s. There wasn’t an electronic check clearing process.
It’s speeding up all the time. We used to double technology every three years. Now it's every six months. And the scary thing is, no matter how far you stretch your imagination in the IoT space, you're not even close to where we can go. So everything that we think about, chances are in four years you're going to look back and snicker at it and say, are you kidding me?
We are in the middle of the next industrial revolution. In the 19th century it was steam engines, then the Ford assembly line, then the advent of computers. Now, we have the Internet of Things. We've only just begun to see the benefits of smart devices. They can do things that not too long ago required a human interface – somebody had to actually go out there and touch that machine. Now devices are going be able to take on more of the decision-making processes in our personal and professional lives. This is a very exciting, dynamic period to be in this business. Mobilogix is very fortunate to be a part of it.
How do you think a more connected world will change the way we work and live?
I think the things that come to mind quickly are improved efficiency, lean and more effective processes, and unique customer experiences.
The more you think about a person as a creature of habit, the more intelligent devices will come into play. Already today, there are smart refrigerators. When I go to the store, I pretty much buy the same things. What if your refrigerator could know what you were almost out of and automatically order it and have it delivered? These smarter devices mean that many of our normal routines and busywork will simply disappear. Within the next 10 to 20 years, we will all be fully connected and it will drive levels of innovation that are hard to imagine right now.
What makes Silicon Labs an ideal partner for you guys?
Silicon Labs has been great to work with. They’ve got a very strong technology roadmap, which makes for a complementary relationship. The support and responsiveness that they provided enabled us to deliver a large-scale solution ahead of schedule and under cost.
At the time, we were working with Bluetooth module development which was new for us, so Silicon Labs support was critical. We could call 24/7 and got a very quick turnaround on replies. We delivered a working sample to our customer in two weeks.
That goes back to the benefits of Mobilogix. We are not a big company, but we have a very in-depth knowledge of the technology, the connectivity options, and solutions. That makes us very nimble.
Last but not least, the big question. What does a more connected world mean to you?
My simple answer – is it eliminates physical constraints and accelerates innovation.